During this time of year our skin can take quite a hit. After all of the holiday indulgences, parties, sleep deprivation, plus dry and cold winter air, it’s time to refocus on taking care of ourselves. What you eat every day can not only improve your health, but also your skin.
The more that I looked into the relationship between food and your skin, the more interesting it got. Allow me to nerd out for a second – the cause and effect is crazy if you think about it. Certain foods are naturally full of nutrients that your body can break down to help itself out. Cool. For example, the same properties that cause carrots to be orange or tomatoes to be red also help to protect your skin from the sun. WoW.
Here are seven simple foods that can benefit your skin and make it more radiant:
Let’s start with the big one: foods that are high in antioxidants. Antioxidants protect our cells from damage produced by free radicals. Free radicals are caused by cigarette smoke, pollution, and UV rays, so there’s really no avoiding them. Too many free radicals can lead to harmful diseases and early aging. Additionally, antioxidants protect collagen and therefore keep your skin young and glowing.
Tiny blueberries are the best source of antioxidants, and can go extremely well with your morning bowl of cereal, oatmeal, or yogurt. Or grab a handful as part of an afternoon snack. I would actually add blueberries to any health list. I’m convinced the reason my husband’s 92-year-old grandma is still using the treadmill is because of her morning ritual of oatmeal and blueberries. Blackberries, raspberries, cranberries, and strawberries are other great sources of antioxidants.
As if we need another reason to eat it. Notice that it’s dark chocolate, which means at least 70% cacao. (Regular milk chocolate is much higher in sugar and doesn’t have the same health benefits.) Similar to blueberries, dark chocolate is packed with free radical-fighting antioxidants. Another more specific type of antioxidants in dark chocolate (flavanols) protect our skin against sun damage and reduce the roughness in skin.
Honestly, I have only recently started liking dark chocolate (I used to think that the taste was too bitter). But by increasing the percentage of cacao each time I bought a bar of chocolate, I have gradually switched over and am now a total convert. Nico and I each have a piece for dessert after dinner. We don’t need a large amount since it’s so rich, and it satisfies my sweet tooth.
Tomatoes are one of your best defenses against the sun (but don’t skip that sunscreen, of course). The beautiful red color of tomatoes originates from lycopene, which eliminates skin-damaging free radicals caused by UV rays. For the most protection against sun damage, cooked tomatoes are best – and sorry, eating ketchup doesn’t count.
Well, really any orange foods. Your body makes vitamin A from the beta-carotene in foods such as sweet potatoes, squash, and carrots. Vitamin A is important for normal skin development and a healthy skin tone. It promotes skin tissue growth and repair, and at the same time reduces the development of skin-cancer cells. There’s even a rumor that more vitamin A can aid in clearing up breakouts by preventing the overproduction of cells (fewer clogged pores). When in doubt, eat some carrots.
One cup of this lovely little fruit can provide over 100% of the daily recommended intake of Vitamin C. Kiwis likewise contain a lot of vitamin C, even more than oranges. But truly, any way to get in a large dose of vitamin C is great for your skin. Besides boosting your immune system and fighting inflammation, vitamin C supports the production of collagen. The more collagen you have, the less creased (and more firm) your skin looks.
Go ahead and enjoy that bowl of guacamole. Avocados have got a lot going on, including a large supply of anti-inflammatory nutrients. Also, the rich amount of vitamin E in avocados can protect your skin from cell damage and diminish the appearance of scars. Almonds and sunflower seeds could give you a boost of vitamin E as well.
I knew salmon was good for your heart. But I was surprised to learn that the omega-3s in salmon can improve the appearance of your skin. Salmon is one of the highest sources of essential Omega-3 fatty acids. These do not naturally occur in our body so the only way to get omega-3s is through food. Omega-3s help the cell membranes retain moisture, preventing dry skin and softening wrinkles. As a bonus, the protein in salmon stimulates nail and hair growth. Weird huh. If you’re not a fan of salmon, chia seeds are another great source, which you can easily sneak into smoothies. Or, snack on some walnuts!
Next time you’re at the lunch counter, choose turkey for your sandwich thanks to its high levels of zinc. Zinc not only fights bacteria that leads to acne, it also reduces inflammation and heals damaged skin. If you want to get fancy, you can get zinc from oysters or lean red meats too.
Don’t roll your eyes. What would be a healthy food list without the greens? Spinach, kale, arugula…all those guys are high in antioxidants, vitamins, and zinc. On top of that, they are perfectly suited to deliver nutrients to cells. The water in the greens carries the nutrients to where they need to be, and at the same time moisturizes the cells. As a bonus, leafy greens happen to be extremely affordable and easy to throw into a lot of dishes.
Water is perhaps the most important ingredient for great skin, need I mention it? Just a reminder that drinking a lot of water is one of the best things you can do for your skin. It flushes out the bad toxins and keeps skin cells hydrated. Give your body the proper tools it needs to function at its best. Food is the most natural form of skin care that you can get. And it’s not like you’ll eat a blueberry and voila! beautiful skin. Eating fewer greasy foods, and a little less soda and sugar can really help your skin glow and decrease inflammation. Add more of these simple foods to your plate instead.